It hasn’t been three full years since Dave Bolland’s last-minute goal in Game 6 won the Stanley Cup for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.
Yet, when the Blackhawks visit the Panthers on Friday, Bolland won’t be anywhere near the ice.
No one has any idea when he will be back on it, either.
Bolland — Florida’s highest-paid forward at $5.5 million per season — hasn’t played or practiced in more than a month since a short stay in the minors.
Never miss a local story.
Bolland, 29, is apparently afflicted by numerous lingering injuries, including an ankle problem that stems from a severed tendon sustained while with Toronto in 2013.
General manager Dale Tallon said the team is giving Bolland time to heal and be 100 percent to help the team make a playoff push.
After all, Bolland has plenty of postseason experience — he won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010 and ’13 — and could be an asset for the Panthers down the line.
“He can’t skate right now, so we’re just trying to get him healthy so he can help us in a playoff run,” Tallon said. “We just want to get him healthy, get him right.
“He has missed a lot of hockey so it’s going to take some time. But the goal is to get him where he was. He’s won championships before, that’s why we brought him here. We want to get him back to that level.”
According to his agent, Anton Thun, Bolland is frustrated that the injuries have kept him from being the kind of player he has been in the past.
“He hates this,’’ Thun said.
Bolland hasn’t spoken to the media since returning from the minors before the Christmas break but Thun said Bolland is in a good mental state and is committed to taking all the time necessary to getting healthy and helping the Panthers.
“The goal is for him to be able to help the Panthers not only make the playoffs, but be successful in them,” Thun said. “He wants to be the player he was for the Chicago Blackhawks before these injuries took place. He’s a very competitive athlete. He’s disappointed he can’t help right now.”
Although Bolland’s equipment still hangs in his locker and he remained on the active roster as of Thursday, the Panthers have been forced to move on without him.
Coincidental or not, once Bolland was taken out of the lineup and replaced by younger players, the Panthers began their franchise-record 12-game winning streak.
Bolland, in the second year of a five-year deal worth $27.5 million, started this season good enough but his play slipped in November, leading coach Gerard Gallant to bench him for three games and demote him to wing on Florida’s fourth line.
In December, after his ice time slipped to under nine minutes per game, Bolland was sent to Florida’s minor-league team in Portland, Maine, for what was called a conditioning assignment.
After playing in two games, Bolland was brought back to Florida before the Christmas break, and he hasn’t skated since.
“He’s a competitive guy who works hard, but I don’t think things have gone real well for him the past few years,’’ Gallant said. “Hey, he’s won the Stanley Cup and is a battler. Sometimes you get a mindset when you look at things and say things have to be better. He’s had to do that a few times this season. He’s a professional.”
Brian Campbell, Bolland’s teammate in Chicago before coming to Florida in 2011, says he sees Bolland in the mornings at the team facility and says he’s working toward a return.
“We all believe he can help us,” Campbell said. “I’m sure it’s not easy for him right now.”
Bolland spent one season in Toronto after his run with the Blackhawks, and his current rash of injuries all go back to when a tendon in his left ankle was severed by a skate blade in 2013.
After missing four months, Bolland returned to the Maple Leafs and played eight games to close the season.
Bolland didn’t get the eight-year deal he sought to stay in Toronto and became a free agent.
Florida and the Leafs engaged in a slight bidding war for his services, with the Panthers getting the deal done by offering a reported $500,000 more per year as well as a fifth year on the contract.
With the Panthers last year, Bolland filled the role he was expected to when healthy.
After missing two months with a groin injury, Bolland played well at times centering the Panthers’ third line.
This year, however, was a different story. Although Bolland came into camp in terrific shape, after a good first month he began to look a step slow and, at times, uninterested.
Questions began whether Bolland could keep up anymore.
Now, the Panthers have to look long-term.
When this season is over, the Panthers will definitely consider buying out Bolland’s remaining three years and pay him $1.8 million over the next six seasons in order to save almost $6 million.
If Bolland doesn’t return from his injuries, he could look to pick up the entirety of the $16.5 million owed to him.
“He has a couple of injuries limiting his ability to play,” Thun said. “He’s receiving medical advice from the team and they are trying to take steps to allow him to get back to NHL conditioning so he can play at the level he knows he can play at. He can be better than he has been.”
Bolland’s career highlight, of course, was helping the Blackhawks win their second Stanley Cup title in three years in 2012.
Chicago trailed Boston 2-1 late in Game 6 before Bryan Bickell tied the score with 1:16 remaining.
A mere 17 seconds later, Bolland followed up a rebound of a deflection from former Panthers winger Michael Frolik and beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead with 59 seconds remaining and a Stanley Cup victory.
“We all dream about scoring that Stanley Cup winner to hoist the Cup,’’ Bolland said then. “So, check that one off the bucket list.”
▪ Defenseman Willie Mitchell didn’t practice again Thursday and will likely miss the next two games. Erik Gudbranson returned Thursday after leaving Monday’s game in the second period. With Florida playing on consecutive nights Friday and Saturday, Dylan Olsen was recalled from Portland.
Friday: Blackhawks at Panthers
When, where: 7:30 p.m., BB&T Center, Sunrise.
TV, radio: FSFL; WQAM (560), WMEN (640), WMNA (1210).
Series: Chicago leads 20-9-3.
Scouting report: Chicago put its 12-game winning streak on the line Thursday in Tampa. Florida, which has lost its past four, is looking for its first win against the Blackhawks since 2011 and hasn't won in Chicago since 2008 after losing there 3-2 in October.